When the outsource doesn’t get enough money

These days, mobile phones are about smartphones. Not that feature phone is disappearing, but the news seems to prefer talking about the cutting edge devices and if we see it positively, that’s what the audience want to know, the newest thing (see it in negative prejudice, the media is brainwashing the readers to only care for the blingest newest devices). But I like a quote from GSMArena article about mobile phone form factor evolution along their database.

Bear in mind though, that the weighted average is a wee bit skewed towards the more expensive phones, since those generate a disproportionately higher amount of traffic. You know people are not fascinated by run-of-the-mill handsets. They don’t look them up online, they don’t research them – they simply use them.

On to the talk; I posted this in a shorter more concise form in a local cellphone forum and seems to got ignored to oblivion (not that I’m that active there).

These days, smartphones are about platforms. Windows Mobile, Symbian, MeeGo, WebOS, and of course the two kings Android and iPhone OS. When specification is let aside, it’s the OS that makes a difference. Several OS aside (Apple, Nokia, Palm HP), the manufacturers used OS made by other companies.

While Apple is seen as having the advantage of controlling the integration from device to OS tightly, I’m actually more envious about one thing rather than the bit about integration and QC. They make and sell their own device.

What’s the point? Well, platform war seems to shift the profit making into something like the carriers do, or business software do. The money come post-sales. Carrier subsidize handset to guarantee money coming for the next one or two years. Business software rent out software for long term cash flow. Platform? Application store of course, from the sales commission (which in a way, seems like the profit source of the largest online forum here in my perspective).

Apple had the device and the OS. They can sell the device, but more importantly get the money from AppStore too.

Android on the other hand… well, someone sell the device and get the money. But after that, application sales go to Google and device maker don’t get anything.

The point being… I think Apple is easier to give OS update to revive old devices. They would still get money from AppStore so they can give the OS to keep their customers happy of having the newest OS until the device can’t take it anymore (like hardware requirement limit in computers).

The other manufacturers? They got money from each devices sold. After that? None other than ripping off their customers for service charge post-warrantee. So I think they had less motivation of providing with updates. Why should they? It would hurt their cash flow. Just see the discontent vocal users in the Maemo community (N900 had no official update to MeeGo) or Motorola Milestone (bootloader locked, ambiguous answer about Froyo), SE (Xperia, trapped in 1.6). For some, it’s matter of locked device so the community can’t try to make their own solution, even without official support. Just unlock the device.

Hardware limitation could be a problem. But a counter-problem is, there are many manufacturers competiting on the platform. The flagship models with most greatest features should have specs able to support some 2–3 generations of OS update.

Will it hurt them to let this happen? I don’t think so. The internet-age audience likes and fixated to the latest news, with short attention span. As new device arrived, no updates become yesterday’s news and reviews about how great the new devices came out. Suddenly, voice of those old customers are gone. Even as several vocal voices say they will stop buying, how much will it harm them?

I think, it’ll be great if all tech news site unite to do kind of boycott. No need to stop reviewing, that’s their lifeblood after all. But in the opening and conclusion section, they should give understanding and inform the customer about how OS update can revive their old device with new functions without needing the newest. Then, they should inform the customer about the manufacturer’s track record of providing upgrades (and history of giving uncertain answers) on each new devices reviewed. Tell them their investment might be short lived because they will need to buy new expensive device when new OS version is out soon when they could get it with OS update alone. If enough average customers realize what they lost, enough to cause impact on sales, maybe they will change, hopefully.

On the other hand, manufacturers likes to quote the excuse about having to do hardware integration and their own software customization. Well… that’s why I like the idea about Windows Phone will get updates from Microsoft directly, not waiting at the mercy of manufacturers and carriers. Why not make a rule about drivers so OS can be updated easily.

But a worry thought… will the upgrade be like Windows Vista to Windows 7? Or will the OS update from Microsoft mentioned is simply like Windows Vista to Windows Vista SP1 (buy new device for major update even if it doesn’t need hardware upgrade).

Fact check (CMIIW)

I never confirmed the facts, especially these points. Please correct me if I’m wrong, would be very welcomed.

  • How is the availability of the iOS update?
  • Does the OEM for Android, and later Windows Phone, get money from the AppStore?
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